Almighty God, Commander of the Host, who strengthened the Martyrs of Sabaste to keep the faith, and inspired the Centurion Sempronius to join the Christians in their trial of faith; strengthen us to resist evil and the false gods of our day, while ever proclaiming your sovereignty; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Sprit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 7:13-17, Psalm 116, and Luke 12:2-12
In the winter of 320 AD, the Emperor Licinius, who was emporer of the East, broke his agreement with Constantine, Emperor of the West, in the Edict of Milan to end the persecution of Christians. Lucinius ordered all Roman soldiers to renounce Christianity and to offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods. Licinius was persecuting Christians at this time. His edict reached the Thundering Legion at Sabaste, and the order was passed down to the legionaries. Forty Christians in the legion withstod threats, beatings, and torture and refused to obey the edict, choosing instead to obey a higher authority: "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them"
In retaliation, the legion marched the men to a frozen lake where they were ordered to remove their armour and clothing and stand naked, as a form of torture to death, on a frozen lake. The legion lit a large fire on the shore with a warm bath and food to tempt the Christians to make the pagan sacrifice, renounce their Christian faith, and save their lives. The commander told them, "You may come ashore when you are ready to deny your faith." The men began to pray,
"O Lord, 40 wrestlers have come forth to fight for Thee.
Grant that 40 wrestlers may gain the victory!"
The mother of the youngest legionary present, and she enticed her son to abandon the others. There was a centurion named Sempronius on the shore at the warm house. On the ice, the remaining Christian legionaries continued to cry out, "O Lord, 40 wrestlers have come forth to fight for thee. Grant that 40 wrestlers may gain the victory!" In response, Centurion Sempronius confessed Jesus as Christ, removed his armor, weapons, and clothing, and joined the 39 remaining Christians on the lake. The next morning the Forty Martyrs of Sabaste were found on the ice and forever recorded their faithful resistance in the annals of history.There exists an eyewitness account of the 40 martys, which includes a message by the martyrs to family and friends.
Revelation vii. 13
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Luke xii. 2
For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.